In 2014, a truck ran into and killed cyclist Mathilde Blais as she rode through an underpass on St-Denis. City Hall opposition party Projet Montreal and other groups immediately called for something to be done. Now, it seems like the solution Mayor Denis Coderre’s administration came up with is to turn a potentially dangerous situation for cyclists into a different potentially dangerous situation for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The sidewalk on Atwater Avenue between Rene Levesque and St-Antoine heading towards the underpass near Lionel Groulx Metro is now also a bike path. At least that’s what the paint city workers put there indicates.

“They’re basically setting up future collisions between pedestrians and cyclists,” said Craig Sauvé, City Councillor with Projet Montréal in a phone interview, “or worse, if a cyclist has to veer into traffic at the last second to avoid hitting a pedestrian.”

Sauvé, who represents St-Henri, Little Burgundy and Pointe St-Charles and is a cyclist himself, knew that changes were coming, changes he and his party had pushed for, but seeing what the Coderre administration had actually done left him feeling bewildered and a little bit panicked.

“They’re not securing,” he commented, “they’re putting paint and saying it’s secure. In order to secure places, you have to give cyclists their space as well and if you don’t they’re going to take it and it will be the same zero sum game as there was before.”

Montreal’s bike paths are controlled by City Hall, regardless of the borough or boroughs (or even de-merged cities) they run through. Atwater isn’t the only recent painted change to come to light. On Montée de Liesse, paint directs cyclists to somehow drive onto a part of sidewalk that doesn’t even dip. If they dismount, they would be doing so in traffic:

Photo credit: u/butidigest on reddit

For Sauvé, a good solution to this mess would be delineating and protecting part of the roads going through underpasses with an actual barrier like one made of cement or even plastic poles. Something which, he observes, quite doable on Atwater as there are currently three lanes of traffic in either direction, one of which could easily be turned into a space for cyclists.

And that’s exactly what Sauvé, fellow politicans, activists and concerned citizens were asking the Coderre administration to do. It’s really not that hard. Instead of paint, just bring some plastic poles.

It seems like Coderre is all for bike safety as long as it doesn’t inconvenience motorists in the slightest. The health and safety of pedestrians is not even an afterthought, it’s inconsequential.

As a proud member of the BMW Set (bus, metro, walk), that just doesn’t fly. I’ve walked through that particular underpass countless times on the sidewalk and know that, especially when walking up the rather steep hill, the last thing you want to contend with is bikes whipping down it.

I wonder if anyone involved in planning these new “bike paths” had ever rode a bike or walked through any of the underpasses in question. It honestly looks like a mistake, one that they are repeating all across the city.

Could it be that they just don’t know? More likely they don’t really care and see bike safety as something they grudgingly pay lip service to and pedestrian safety as something that only matters when a bad story makes the news.

If the city really wants to make things safer for cyclists, they should ask cyclists what to do and really should consult pedestrians before dual-zoning a sidewalk on a rather steep incline. Otherwise they’ll wind up replacing one dangerous situation with one potentially more treacherous.

* Listen to the full interview with Craig Sauvé on the next FTB Podcast

The notion of pardons has made headlines recently with the Orange President’s pardoning of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio is involved in a racial profiling in a case in which his patrols targeted and imprisoned Latinos in an attempt to crack down on illegal immigration. He was ordered to stop but Arpaio told his subordinates he planned to continue business as usual. He was convicted of contempt of court and facing six months in jail…

That is until the Orange Racist decided to pardon him on August 27, 2017.

This article is not about the fact that the US President, Arpaio, and the US Attorney General are clearly America’s senile, racist grandpas who should have been left in nursing homes ages ago…

It’s about pardons and will look at how pardons work in the US and Canada. For the American model, I’ll focus on the Presidential Pardon as that is the one the Orange President is most likely to abuse as the Russia scandal unfolds.

Record Suspension in Canada

In Canada, a pardon is formally called a “record suspension” and despite what many think, it does not wipe your slate clean of any crimes you were convicted of in the past.

A record suspension means that your criminal record will be kept separate from your other criminal records. That means it will be removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database and won’t come up on a search. The purpose of this is to allow those convicted of a crime that have successfully rehabilitated themselves to reintegrate into society by opening up educational and employment opportunities they would not otherwise have access to.

Criminal record suspensions are governed by the Criminal Records Act. Though it only applies to records kept by federal organizations, most provincial and municipal criminal justice bodies will also restrict access to a federally suspended record once informed that a suspension has been ordered.

As per the Act, the Parole Board of Canada (“the Board”) has exclusive jurisdiction and “absolute discretion” to order, refuse or revoke a record suspension. Anyone convicted of an offense under Canadian law can apply to the Board for a record suspension, but there are a few catches.

First, you cannot apply for a record suspension until a certain time has elapsed after the expiration of your sentence. If your sentence was more than six months long or your fine greater than five thousand dollars, or if you were dismissed from the Canadian Forces – army, navy, or air force – and detained for a period of six months or had a punishment of over two years as per the scale of punishments set out in the National Defense Act, you must wait ten years before applying for a record suspension. If the offense was punishable on a summary conviction – a lesser type of penalty in which the maximum punishment is five thousand dollars or six months in prison – or is an offense other than those covered by rules for servicemen, you must wait five years before applying for a pardon.

It should be noted that there are some types of offenders who are ineligible for a record suspension regardless of how much time has elapsed since their conviction and sentence. People who have been convicted of sexual offenses towards minors as well as the trafficking of minors are usually ineligible for record suspensions. There is, however, an exception to this rule, and this where the Parole Board’s discretion comes in.

A person convicted of the above offenses can apply for a record suspension but will only get it if the Parole Board is convinced that the former offender was not in a position of authority towards the victim nor was the victim in a situation of dependency on the offender at the time of the offense. In addition, the Board must also be convinced that the offender did not use violence, coercion or intimidation against the victim. The offender also needs to be less than five years older than the victim.

It’s not just people who commit sex crimes against kids who cannot get a pardon in Canada. Any person convicted of more than three offenses prosecuted by indictment in which they were sentenced to two years or more in prison are also ineligible without exception.

If you successfully get a record suspended, it does not erase the conviction or the record of it. It simply sets it aside and can be revoked or cease to have effect if you’re convicted of a new crime, found to “no longer be of good conduct”, found to have lied, provided misleading information, or hidden info on your application, or if you weren’t eligible for a pardon when you applied. If you were convicted of a sex crime against minors but managed to get a record suspension under the Parole Board’s discretion, your file will still be flagged under the CPIC in the off chance that you try and volunteer or find a job working with a vulnerable group such as the elderly or children.

Pardons in the US

In the US, the Constitution grants the president the power to “Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment”. That means that he can pardon just about anyone for any criminal offense. As in Canada, the pardon can be used only for criminal offenses.

With a pardon, the president forgives the commission of the offense. According to the US Supreme Court, pardons can be issued at any time “after [the commission of an offense], either before legal proceedings are taken, or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment”.

It is customary for the President to grant pardons based on the recommendations of the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is charged with reviewing applications for presidential clemency. Their standards for assessing applications are according to the applicant’s post-conviction conduct, character, and reputation, the seriousness of the offense and how recently it was committed, the offender’s acceptance of responsibility for the offense and sense of remorse and atonement, “the need for relief” and official reports and recommendations. It should be noted however that the president is under no obligation to follow the DOJ’s recommendations nor can the DOJ restrict the president’s power to pardon under the US constitution.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

In order for a pardon to work, a warrant of pardon must be physically delivered to the person granted it. The recipient then can either accept it or reject it. If it is rejected, the courts cannot force the person to take it.

Unlike in Canada where the record is simply set aside, a presidential pardon has the effect of ending the punishment and “obliterates both conviction and guilt which places the offender in a position as if he or she had not committed the offense in the first place”.

Though presidential pardons appear absolute, there are many legal experts in the US challenging this because of Sheriff Arpaio.

Protect Democracy, an activist group fighting the President’s violations of legal norms recently sent a letter to the DOJ arguing that the pardon was granted in violation of its limits set out in the constitution. The group argues that the Constitution of 1787 is limited by later amendments including the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing equal protection before the law, and the Fifth Amendment guaranteeing due process.

In Arpaio’s case the Fifth Amendment comes into play because his actions leading to the conviction routinely violated Americans’ right to due process before the law and that in order to enforce this rule, the courts must be able to restrain government officials breaking them.

Whether the challenge succeeds or not remains to be seen, as there is no legal precedent for doing so.

As a rule, pardons do more good than bad. They allow people who made mistakes they’ve atoned for to move on and become productive members of society. As in anything, there is a danger when the power to pardon is absolute and vested in only one person, especially when that person is a senile, racist, whining misogynist.

It will be up to the American people and especially American jurists to recognize that what happens with Arpaio will be one more step in determining whether they are truly committed to democracy and rule of law or have resigned themselves to rule by an incompetent dictator.

In Quebec there is no law more hotly discussed, debated, or resented than Bill 101.

These days Bill 101 is seen one of two ways. People who love the Bill see it as necessary way to preserve Quebec’s Francophone identity in the face of cultural and linguistic assimilation attempts. Others see it as a means for Quebec’s French-speaking majority to treat the province’s other linguistic minorities like garbage.

The issue is a lot more complex than that and in order to properly explain, we need to go back in time.

The year was 1760 when Great Britain took over New France. British leaders replaced the French ones and did their best to impose their will on the French-speaking majority. This oppression went on for the next two hundred years during which there were Francophone rebellions to assert their rights but they were all quashed by the British. One of the few but significant concessions the British made to North American Francophones was allowing them to keep their Catholic faith despite the Crown’s dislike of the Papacy.

Everything began to change in the 1960s due in part to the Quiet Revolution in which every aspect of Quebec society from political patronage to the economy to social, cultural, and religious life came under scrutiny with the widespread recognition that change was needed. The increasing demand of Quebec Francophones for protections of their language and culture eventually led to the establishment of the the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, a federal commission that took place from 1963 to 1971.

The Royal Commission revealed that the number of French-speaking people in Quebec was not reflected in their actual political and economic representation. In 1965 Francophones made an average of thirty-five percent less than Anglophones and there were concerns about the lack of Francophone representation in federal institutions.

The actual inequalities had a few effects.

First was the belief that the status of the French language in Canada was fragile, the second was the rise of Quebec nationalism which argues that the only way Quebec can preserve its language and culture is to separate from an English-speaking majority Canada.

Bill 101 was brought in to preserve the French language in Quebec, but it was not the first law to try and do so. In 1969 Bill 63, the Act to Promote the French Language in Quebec was enacted, which required that kids receiving an English education get a working knowledge of French and that the government facilitate immigrants learning French when they arrive in Quebec. The law was disliked by Quebec Francophones because it didn’t go far enough; it was eventually replaced by Bill 22 in 1974.

Bill 22 was enacted by the provincial Liberal government under Robert Bourassa. It established French as Quebec’s official language and required that all immigrants arriving in Quebec learn French.

In 1976 the Parti Québecois under René Levesque took power and a year later, Bill 101 was enacted.

Bill 101 aka the Charte de la langue française made French Quebec’s official language and enacted a lot of the rules still in force today. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the three sets of rules people seem to resent the most: the language of education, the language of commerce, and that of government services.

The law requires that kindergarten, elementary, and secondary school instruction be in French. There are exceptions to this and they work as follows:

  • If the father, mother (or both) is a Canadian citizen and received a major part of their elementary school instruction in English in Canada, one parent can request their child receive English instruction
  • If the father, mother (or both) as well as the child’s siblings are Canadian citizen and received or are receiving a major part of their elementary or secondary education in Canada in English, the child can go to English school

The law robs parents of the freedom of choice where their children’s education is concerned. It also allows the child to become a more employable adult, as French is the dominant language in Quebec and knowing more than one language improves job prospects overall.

Bill 101 also established French as the language of business. All product labels in Quebec are required to be drafted in French, as are all catalogues, brochures, and commercial directories. The law also requires that standardized contracts be in French, though both parties can agree to draft the contract in another language as well.

Perhaps the most hotly disputed aspect of Bill 101’s commerce rules is regarding signage laws. The law demands that all commercial signage, posters, and advertising be in French. Another language is permitted on commercial signage but only if “French is markedly predominant”.

Over the years these rules have often been used to persecute ethnic and religious businesses such as in 2001 when the Office québécois de la langue française – the office charged with making sure French is the language of commerce, work, and communication in Quebec – went after L. Berson & Fils, a now defunct Jewish funeral monument company in Montreal. Fortunately public outrage forced the government to back down.

In cases where the government proceeds with enforcing Bill 101, penalties range from fines of six hundred dollars and up to being disqualified from holding certain government jobs for a period of five years.

The most dangerous aspect of the law is regarding that of civil administration, specifically with regards to health and social services. Since they are government owned and operated under Canada’s public health care system, hospitals, CLSCs and clinics fall under the same French language requirements.

Though most people working in public health know to provide health and social services in the language to best serve the patient to the best of their abilities, some service providers have been accused of using language laws to refuse people necessary help. Hopital de Verdun, for example, has been accused on many occasions of denying English speakers health services because they cannot speak French.

Though it should go without saying, where a person’s health and safety are concerned, there should be no language barrier.

It should be noted that Bill 101 has been successfully challenged several times in the courts for violating the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights. To prevent further legal challenges, Quebec used the Notwithstanding Clause, a clause in our constitution that allows provinces to keep legislation in place notwithstanding the Charter. Since the court challenges, the law has been tweaked to make it more constitutionally compatible.

Bill 101 is like toothpaste. When applied correctly and in the right place it is a necessary evil to make sure that Quebec society functions despite what comes out of people’s mouths. When used incorrectly and in the wrong place it can be a pain in the ass. It’s up to us to keep challenging the government when they apply the Bill where it doesn’t belong.

Some things are more important than money. Things like knowing someone wants to be in a cabin in the woods with you, spending our days in no hurry, reading, making art, and building forts. Burning wood and making love, swimming naked under the stars and howling at the full moon.

I want to plant a field of sunflowers so we can hang out in them. I want to fly kites and climb trees, run through fields and streams, I want to rip my dress, and I want you to tell me it’s ok, because it’s just a dress and there are more important things to worry about.

Money has never been something that concerned me. I know it is a necessity for prosperity in a modern capitalistic society, but why? If everyone just went vegan, grew their own veggies, composted and repurposed everything, and just self sustained in general, we could all go on living in harmony forever without the evil tendrils of capitalism and greed sneaking into every orifice of our identity as humanity. Nothing is free though, is it?

The oldest profession is prostitution, trading your physical self, your lady tunnel and supreme mountains, the curves of your sweetness, for dirty green paper. Children are sold into sex trafficking rings across the world, its fucking horrific. Consent is what is needed, my body is mine alone.

Dirty green paper kills people, it is the root of all that is evil and wrong. I also use my body for money. I dance. I dance because I must, because there are so many things to say. I dance because I know people will always watch.

Amusement and titilation, the politics of body language are not universal. I live in a lace cage, its stretches but you can’t tear through, straps and garters, nets and spikes, don’t forget the blood red lips. Art is not free? You mean, I am worth something more?

It feels good to get paid for something you love. There is no such thing as too much boob. Counting crumpled dollar bills while naked like a drug dealer’s girl (they make women count money and bag drugs while naked so they don’t steal anything).

I give myself golden showers. Glitter for days. I always douse myself in the luminescent perfection. To be loved and hated for your glitter at the same time. Some people want me to rub my body all over them and steal my glitter. My disco tits inspire.

Others won’t touch me, those are the glitter is herpes people (and they can go fuck themselves). Burlesque is a beautiful world of sparkling bits (it is also getting fake shit on by a bag of chocolate frosting in your best friend’s crotch sometimes). Shock value is priceless, giving someone a moment they will never forget is what life is all about.

I barely break even, spending money on costumes and makeup as soon as I make it. My weekly show is just enough to buy a bag of weed and keep me in glitter.

Can I just live life topless? I want to start a BOOBER instead of Uber where I am just topless and charge 10 times as much. There will be a bouncer in the front seat.

Sometimes artists have a hard time doing free shows, feeling like their my time is precious and expensive. Artists are constantly expected to do work for free. Sometimes I am HAPPY to do things for free if I care about the project and want to donate.

And yes, it is true that I do not like money, I despise it and want to burn the capitalist system to the ground. I want to piss on its ashes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need some money to live. Not to live life lavishly, but to survive and meet my basic needs and primitive wants. Go to Amy’s Place and get the vegan french toast AND the bbq seitan BIF sammich. I deserve it. I want to say yes to the dress and go to all of the concerts and plays. I want to take a day off to run through a field of blooming flowers barefoot.

I take my clothes off as currency. My revolutions and movements are enough to feed me. I am inspired to do this forever because I cannot trade my life for a cubicle. I will never ever work for the man or sit in an office ever again. I do not look good in a fucking pants suit.

More money more problems. Less money more problems. Seems like everything is just problematic. Happiness is easy if you stop worrying about bills and bullshit. Everyone should free their mind from insecurities and just get naked.

The roar of a crowd is invigorating, higher than any drug. People are more afraid of being naked then being burned alive. Let your confidence and beauty feed you. Take off your clothes every chance you get.

There is a racist misogynist money-grubbing cheeto in the White House who has recently and very publicly expressed his sympathy for White Supremacists and Neo Nazis and his contempt for those who fight them. His influence has spread northward to us, emboldening the most morally repulsive people in Canada to come forward and express their desire to see women ground into submissiveness and visible religious and sexual minorities killed.

When these pathetic excuses for human beings face public censure they always cry “free speech”. This article will look at what free speech protections there actually are in Canada and the United States, the laws governing hate speech and propaganda – if any, and the consequences therein.

As the United States is looking like a hotbed of racism, intolerance, and incompetence, let’s start with them.

Free speech protections fall under the First Amendment of the Constitution which says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment protects a wide range of speech no matter how distasteful, untrue, or hateful. Just about any time a city or state passes a law banning hate propaganda of any kind, a First Amendment challenge is brought to the courts.

The Supreme Court of the United States has sided with the hate-mongering petitioners almost every time. As it stands, you could publish or distribute something saying for example, that women or African Americans are stupid and don’t really deserve well-paying jobs and face no criminal legal consequences that would be upheld in a court of law.

In Canada, the situation is very different.

Though Section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of thought, belief, and expression, the Canadian Criminal Code has a whole section devoted to censuring hate propaganda. The laws in question prohibit public incitement of hatred and the advocating of genocide against an “identifiable group”. The law carries penalties ranging from a fine to between six months to five years in jail. The law calls an “identifiable group”: “any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or mental or physical disability.”

The prohibitions on hate speech do have a defense written into them which allows a defendant to beat a charge if they can prove on a balance of probabilities that the statements were true, they in good faith attempted to establish an argument on a religious subject, “the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest” or the person “intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada”.

Our Supreme Court recognizes that laws punishing hate propaganda violate our right to freedom of expression but in R v. Keegstra in 1990 a majority of judges agreed that the violation was justified and therefore constitutional.

James Keegstra was a teacher in Alberta who taught his students that Jews were (among other things) treacherous and child killers. Any students who contradicted his conspiracy theories got their marks docked. He was finally fired in 1982 after four years of complaints. A year later he was charged with promoting hatred. Keegstra was convicted and appealed the conviction.

In their decision, the majority Supreme Court justices said that the law was a proportionally reasonable limit on freedom of expression and that the objective of the law – “to reduce racial, ethnic and religious tension and perhaps even violence in Canada” – was rationally connected to the prohibitions in it.

Keegstra, for his part, remained an unrepentant anti-Semite and holocaust denier until his death in 2014. May he rest in Hell.

Although the United States has no criminal prohibitions against hate speech, there are other ways of censuring hate propagandists. As in Canada, the acts often associated with hate propaganda such as arson, assault, murder, theft, rape, and vehicular homicide are against the law in every state in the union. In addition, victims of hate propaganda can sue for libel, and though lawyers are costly, many in the US will work for the publicity alone.

In Canada, the rules for suing are different as provinces retain jurisdiction over civil law. In Quebec, you can sue for material damages, physical damages – meaning damages to your person, or moral damages – damages to your psyche. The burden of proof is a balance of probabilities and not beyond a reasonable doubt. All you have to do is prove that the hate monger and the propaganda they pushed are at fault for your damages.

Arguments against laws punishing hate propaganda range from the notion that punishing hate speech is being intolerant to the notion that criminalizing hate exacerbates the problem by furthering hate mongers’ narratives of victimhood. While the latter may be true, hate mongers generally adopt a narrative of victimhood regardless of whether there is real persecution or not. With the former, one must look at the paradox of tolerance.

The paradox of tolerance is the notion that part of being tolerant is tolerating intolerance. Historically it’s been proven that tolerance does not necessarily breed tolerance. Tolerance of intolerance all too becomes appeasement of the most evil elements in society, emboldening them further – the lessons of the Second World War and Nazi Germany are the clearest cases of this.

In these troubled times, we need to remember these lessons more than ever, or one day we’ll be the ones run over by a car, or lynched, or gassed.

Things are gonna change for me around here. Real soon. I’m done with being disrespected. I’m sick of being laughed at. I’m tired of being judged by passing birds. And most of all, I’ve had it up to here with being ignored by the cosmos. That all changes tomorrow.

I’m going to show all those women who dumped me. I’m going to show all those guys who always picked me last for badminton. I’m going to show all those dogs who just walked away when I tried to pet them. I’m going to show all the people who didn’t want to be friends with me just because I kept yelling at the sky. I’m going to show everyone.

I’m going to beat the shit out of the solar eclipse.

People are talking a lot of big game about this so-called “major astronomical event.” Like it’s some real hot shit or something. Like the moon and the sun converging once every few years is some big deal. Pfft, yeah, I have sex almost that often too. You’re not impressing me, eclipse.

I’m seeing all these Facebook events popping up for eclipse-watching parties. Everybody wants to be the eclipse’s friend. Well guess what? I’ve got a Facebook event for you. It’s called “Come at me, eclipse, I’ll knock your astral dick in the dirt.” Start time: the moment the edge of the punk-ass moon starts creepin’ onto that little bitch the sun. End time: after two hits; me hitting the eclipse, and the eclipse hitting the floor. The space floor.

Oh, you don’t think I can take the eclipse? You think just because it’s, like, twice the size of me I don’t stand a chance? You ever hear of a little story called David and Goliath? Yeah? Well Goliath isn’t gonna win this time. No, I’m taking that gradually-more-awe-inspiring-as-the-heavens-gloriously-align bastard down. The sun’s not gonna look so hot when you can’t even see it anymore! Because I punched it, that is. Not because it was eclipsed by the moon. Dammit, I feel like I really just muddied my point. Anyway.

How will I do it? Easy. First I’ll blend in with some regular spectators, wearing their dumbass eclipse glasses ‘cause they’re scared of it. Well I’m not. That’s when I’ll strike. I’ll pull off the stupid glasses, break them in two, and throw them in the ditch like a proud rattlesnake shedding the skin of a mighty wolf. Everyone around me will be like “whoa, who’s this cool guy? I wish he was my friend.”

Then I’ll look right at the eclipse and say something real badass, like, “hey, eclipse… time for lights out.” And we’ll stare each other down. Don’t worry, I won’t go blind. I’m tough. Besides, scientists say looking at an eclipse can destroy your retinas, and I won’t be looking at it with my retinas, I’ll be looking at it with my eyes, genius.

It’ll all be over pretty fast. Sure, the eclipse will probably get a hit or two in, but it’ll be no contest. Anyone who’s seen me practicing karate on clouds in the park knows that. And when it’s all over, and people are packing up their telescopes and microscopes and what have you, all everyone will be able to talk about will be how cool the guy is who beat the shit out of the eclipse, and how they all want to be his friend. All those stuck-up stars will be so jealous.

After word gets around the galaxy about what went down, the eclipse will think twice about showing itself around here again. And so will every other cosmic show-off. I’m looking at you, aurora borealis. You think you’re so pretty? Everybody just loves you, huh? Well I’m pretty too, you know! We’ll see who’s prettier after I kick your rippling green ass!

 

Photo by Takeshi Kuboki via flickr

WTF? Seriously, why are people creepy and evil? It is just a stream of murder and hate, a world in disarray. It has always been this way.

Young girls are constantly being objectified and used. Transgender and non binary humans live life in fear. Kids, especially black kids and other people of color, can’t walk down the street without being shot at or abducted.

“Its Death for no reason, and death for no reason is murder.”

– Morrissey

White supremacists with guns and torches are running people over in cars while a hate monger rules supreme. Mother earth is a woman in pain. Hunger is rampant and we are not allowed to be poor in public spaces.

There is no access to anything that is vital. I don’t have healthcare. Food deserts in the poorest neighborhoods. Oh yea, what about emininant war and nuclear holocaust? Heil Trump?! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!? NO! I have the words “FUCK NAZIS” written on my stomach from my last show. Hate has no place here.

The KKK took my baby away is now more ironic than it should be. I come from a place of privilege, I have always had food and access to education. I recently lost someone who was like a sister to me because of her racist views. We came from the same neighborhood, the East side of Buffalo.

This is devastating. I cannot be friends with someone who posts 14 Words on their Instagram. NO! Hate like this is disgusting and horrifying. You should be ashamed of yourself.

I am most sad that your children are going to be raised in hate, that isn’t fair, children are born to love and shine. I only wish that I can be a positive influence on them someday. I hope that you change, this is no way to exist. I will not go to a Black Lives Matter rally and then to a white supremacist’s birthday party.

Love is the revolution. Fighting for Peace is like Fucking for Virginity right? I don’t know what to do. I want to share vegan food with my friends, I want to pet my cats, I want to write poems, I want to make art.

I need to do all of these things with intention. Everything must be with a message, it all is political, art is life or death. We must all RISE UP together and stop this constant trend towards hate. We cannot be afraid. Together we are indestructible and that is the real wall, we will bind together in a rainbow of goodness and peace, love and pure connection, not color blindness but a celebration of diversity. I would not be me without you being you.

Stop being creepy, ask consent for everything, if she is too drunk let her sleep. Dance naked. Ride bikes naked. Recycle. Listen. Think. Sleep with musicians. Speak up. Write poetry, write your politicians, burn down the system. Ask people what their preferred pronouns are. Take into considerations other people’s cultures before you pass judgement. Kiss a dog. Plant a seed. Love uncontrollably, spread kindness not disease, bask in the joy that is being alive in this particular time and place. Make a difference. Stand up for others! When people need a friend it has to be you. This is no time to be lazy, we are all in danger. I love you, I will always love you. Don’t forget that.

* This title is a quote from my friend Valerie (photo above). She said it as I was writing this blog and I found it appropriate. She gives me hope.

Montreal Pride is upon us and with it the sights and sounds of people celebrating sexual diversity in an environment that is supposed to be safe and welcoming. Though in Canada we pride ourselves at our enlightenment on issues of sexuality and gender identity, we have still have a long way to go. Before we can move forward, we need to look at our past.

This article will look briefly at the history of LGBTQ struggles in Quebec and Canada, conduct a quick overview of current legislation, and do its best to present a picture of the status quo and what needs to be done to make our country safer and more inclusive.

During the British colonial period, homosexuality, known as “buggery” or “sodomy” was punishable by death. In 1861, the law was eased a bit and the penalty was changed to ten years to life in jail. Anti-gay laws almost always targeted men and the language of laws was kept intentionally vague in order to give huge discretion to law enforcement.

Starting in 1890, gays were generally charged with “gross indecency”, and between 1948 and 1961 changes to the Canadian Criminal Code were made, creating the categories of criminal “sexual psychopaths” and “dangerous sexual offenders”. Instead of persecuting rapists and pedophiles, the changes were disproportionately used to target gays. In addition, Canadian immigration law considered homosexuals an inadmissible class of immigrants.

The gay rights movement in Canada didn’t really gain momentum until the 1960s, when George Everett Klippert, a mechanic from the Northwest Territories, admitted that he was gay and had sex with men. In 1967 he was charged with “gross indecency” and sent to prison indefinitely as a “dangerous sexual offender”.

His conviction was sadly upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.

While Klippert was rotting in jail, the British government opted to decriminalize certain homosexual acts. Taking a cue from our Mother Country, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, at the time Justice Minister for Prime Minister Lester Pearson, began pushing the omnibus bill, a bill that would amend the Criminal Code to decriminalize homosexual sex, legalize contraception, and increase access to abortion. When asked about it, Trudeau told the press:

“It’s bringing the laws of the land up to contemporary society I think. Take this thing on homosexuality. I think the view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. I think that what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code. When it becomes public this is a different matter, or when it relates to minors this is a different matter.”

The bill passed in 1969, and two years later, Everett Klippert was released from prison.

In 1977 Quebec passed its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, a quasi-constitutional bit of legislation and the first of its kind to openly ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Applicable to both private and public parties, the law bans discrimination in access to public spaces, contracts or refusal to enter into them, housing, and employment on the basis of many grounds including sexual orientation. The Quebec Charter also grants equal recognition, and bans harassment, and the distribution of discriminatory notices, symbols, or signs.

In 1978 Canada’s immigration laws were modified so homosexuals are no longer inadmissible.

In 1992, the ban on gays in the military was lifted. A few years later, in 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that same sex couples are entitled to the same benefits and under the same obligations as opposite-sex couples for the social programs they contribute to.

In the summer of 2005, Paul Martin’s government successfully passed Bill C-38, the Law on Civil Marriage, allowing same sex couples the legal right to marry. Attempts by Conservatives to reopen the marriage debate have failed and continue to do so to this day.

Over the years the Canadian Criminal Code has evolved to include “sexual orientation and gender identity or expression” in its definition of hate crimes. The inclusion of gender identity or expression is a recent addition by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Hate crimes include public incitement of hatred, advocating genocide, and willful promotion of hatred, which carry penalties ranging from six months to five years in prison. In addition, sentencing guidelines for the courts now include the obligation to consider aggravating circumstances that could add to a sentence, including evidence that the crime was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on factors that include sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

As it stands, life for Canada’s LGBTQ people is far from perfect. Many members of the LGBTQ community are still denied access to proper health care in Quebec and people are still being fired for being gay or transgender. Though the election of the orange bigot and the rise in hate crimes south of the border has bolstered support for LGBTQ groups, it has also given hatemongers in Canada the confidence to be more open in their hate.

Some Montreal institutions have to deal with homophobia in their recent past. Several groups have been calling on the City of Montreal and the Montreal Police (SPVM) to apologize for violent raids on gay clubs and parties in the 70s, 80s and 90s and just this year Projet Montreal City Councillor Richard Ryan and his party joined them. The raid on Sex Garage in 1990 was what sparked the movement that would ultimately lead to Montreal Pride.

Quebec launched initiatives in 2013 to fight homophobia, however queer people are still glared at in public for simply being themselves. Unfortunately, the one law that would firmly entrench LGBTQ rights – our constitution – still does not include protections for them, and partisan politics and the Quebec notion of us vs them where the rest of Canada is concerned will keep these protections from ever happening.

Protections for LGBTQ people are there but they could be a whole lot better.

This Pride, let’s do what the haters hate most – be out and proud and open and fabulous, while still firmly pushing for those changes Canada so desperately needs.

From tomorrow through August 20th, NDG residents, frequent visitors to the neighbourhood and even people from all over looking for something fun to do in the summer have a chance to discover more about this sprawling community in western Montreal and document what they learn on social media. It’s a scavenger hunt.

In particular, it’s the ScaveNDGers Hunt, officially part of Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations. ScaveNDGers is an event created and organized by Sarah Ring and Aurora Robinson, two NDG residents who are also behind another successful community-based event, PorchFest NDG, a porch-based local music festival that happens every spring.

I had a chance to speak with Ring about this very unique scavenger hunt:

FTB: Where did you get an idea for an NDG scavenger hunt? Did the success of PorchFest play a role?

Sarah Ring: The city put out a call for projects last year and the NDG Community Council (Sharon Sweeney who is the center of a lot of community-driven initiatives in NDG) reached out to a lot of people, groups, organizers to brainstorm possible projects that could get funding. So being the organizers of PorchFest got us invited to that session and I assume showed the city/board of decision-makers that we could handle the job.

It was during that session that we came up with the idea of a scavenger hunt but instead of people having to unearth certain objects (like a Rolling Stones concert ticket from 1978) we thought that people could have tasks to accomplish.

Many NDG events seem to center around Sherbrooke and Monkland, but according to your map, this event incorporates all of NDG, including below the tracks and the northern parts of the neighbourhood. Do you think this will help people discover other parts of NDG they may not visit frequently?

NDG is big and we thought it would be a great opportunity for people to discover other parts of their hood. If you live in the Monkland Village, how often do you go to St-Raymond or Westhaven? Both Aurora and I live in the western part of NDG (Loyola) and it often gets neglected.

A lot of the action is concentrated around NDG/Girouard Park though Arts Week is finally moving west with Sunset on Somerled – a great initiative! There is so much diversity in NDG that some might not know about- conversely, there are a lot of cultural communities that might not be familiar with the history of NDG- this seemed like a great way to bring people of all walks of life and demographics together to make new discoveries – be it people, places, architecture, knowledge.

In this sense the community has been an integral and invaluable part of the project- from its conception, to preparation (Jason Wasserman, an NDGer who did our graphics, was in En Masse) to where we buy our supplies, and translation services to the content of the tasks, and now the participants – though it’s open to everyone not just NDGers. Our focus has all been on the neighborhood and utilizing what great resources we have here locally – you know, by the people for the people!

3. As this is an event for all ages with a strong learning component, albeit a fun one, how much of what is there to be discovered will be fresh knowledge even for adults who have lived in NDG for years in addition to being discoveries for the kids?

For sure some of the clues and facts will be known to some – that’s inevitable. There is a FB group dedicated to NDG bygone eras who have a much richer acquaintance with the past than we do. But a lot of our tasks involve getting participants to do something related to a community service (which people might not know about) or create some public art or record a story. In this sense, participants are creating new knowledge about the neighborhood that will be novel to everyone – recently arrived residents and the old timers alike.

All the images, videos (data) will be archived and preserved. So yes, some facts will not be new to some but all the teams’ results (we have about 60 teams so far!) will generate deep and meaningful connections that will outlast the project. That’s really exciting for us!

If you’re excited, too, or just a bit curious, you can sign up before August 13th at tresorsndg.com to get started

This past July, the town of Saint-Apollinaire voted against allowing their small Muslim community a space to bury their dead. In response, Quebec City has generously offered land for the building of an Islamic Cemetery.

This article is not about Saint-Apollinaire or Quebec’s obnoxious denial of its racism problem.

It’s about death, and how we deal with what’s left of the people we know.

Though we’re all affected by it, death and its technicalities are things we just don’t talk about…

…That is until someone we know dies.

When a loved one dies we do our best to make sure the person gets what they would have wanted. The late comedian George Carlin joked about wanting to be dropped from a plane and left wherever he landed even if it was the mayor’s lawn. Unfortunately, though we’d like to fulfill the wishes of even our most eccentric friends and relatives, the province of Quebec has rules about how a body can be disposed of after death.

The rules come primarily from Quebec’s Burial Act and the Act Respecting Medical Laboratories, Organ and Tissue Conservation, and the Disposal of Human Bodies and related regulations. Generally there are two common ways a body can be put to rest after death, burial and cremation, so this article will focus on those.

The law says that burials have to take place “in a cemetery lawfully established, except in cases otherwise provided by the law”. That means that if your uncle, for example, wanted to be buried at your family’s cottage, he couldn’t unless the land was a cemetery. This is undoubtedly to avoid any dispute as to what should be done with human remains should a property be sold or expropriated.

Cemeteries, it should be noted, are considered private property, and the land is at the disposal of the physical or legal person who owns it, subject to any restrictions imposed as a result of someone buying a burial plot on said land.

In cases not otherwise specified, coffins must be placed in a grave and covered with at least a meter of earth, but the Minister of Health and Social Services who is charged with the enforcement of said acts can make exceptions for special cases.

Burials cannot take place in a church or chapel currently used for religious purposes without the consent of the ecclesiastical or diocesan authority of the religious group who owns the space. In cases where such authority grants this permission, the law requires that the body be placed in a coffin with 2.5 kg of quick-lime or lime chloride and covered with at least 1.25 meters of earth or enclosed in masonry at least forty five centimeters thick. The quick-lime is likely required to neutralize the odor and speed decay.

Cremations can only be done by the holder of a funeral director’s permit allowing him or her to perform them. Crematoriums must be equipped and operated so as to prevent any risk of contamination and avoid to pollution. The law specifies that said crematoriums must have a firebrick oven “kept in good working order at all times”. If the funeral home has a columbarium – a place to keep urns of ashes – it has to be fireproof.

Though the government has its own rules, the faiths of the deceased come into play when deciding how to treat the remains. For the purposes of this article, I will do a crash course on the rules of the three most common Abrahamic faiths in Montreal: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As there are so many sects of Christianity, I’ll focus primarily on Catholicism. Apologies to anyone who is outraged (though houses of worship shouldn’t permit trolls).

Judaism requires that a body be buried immediately after passing, or at most, the following day as the belief is that the soul remains in turmoil until burial. The body must be buried complete: with all its limbs and organs.

Islamic practices are a bit trickier as they vary according to interpretations of Islamic law, but there are a few common customs. As in Judaism, Muslims are buried and burials must take place as soon as possible after death, historically because in the days of poorer hygiene an unburied corpse posed a sanitation risk. If the death was not from natural causes i.e. assassination or freak accident, a burial can be delayed to determine cause of death.

Catholicism permits both burial and cremation, though in 2016 the Vatican issued new rules regarding how remains should be dealt with. At the end of October of that year, they said that ashes and bone fragments cannot be kept at home or divided among relatives as mementos as it deprives community of their right to respect the dead. They declared that Church authorities should designate special spaces such as cemeteries or church areas to hold them. Only in special cases can a bishop permit an individual to keep remains at home. Unlike Judaism and Islam, there is no time requirement as to when to bury or cremate the body. If for whatever reason as per canon law, a person cannot be buried in a Catholic cemetery, the law allows the person to be buried in designated ground adjacent to said cemetery.

If someone is not religious, their remains can be dealt with as they or their families wish subject to the confines of the law. Last summer, Quebec approved the practice of Aquamations, an eco friendly alternative to cremation that involves using a water based solution to dissolve the body, leaving the bones which are then pressed into powder. With its increasing popularity, many Quebec funeral homes are getting on the enviro safe bandwagon.

The act of putting our dead to rest has been a custom for thousands of years. It not only allows us to pay our last respects to those we knew, but also keeps the inevitable result of human death and decay from becoming a sanitation risk.

On July 24th, 2017, the verdict many Canadians had long been waiting for finally happened. Winston Blackmore, leader of the fundamentalist Mormon sect in Bountiful BC and a Bishop of the Community, James Oler, were found guilty of polygamy.

After the verdict was read, Blackmore said publicly that:

“I’m guilty of living my religion and that’s all I’m saying today because I’ve never denied that.”

This article isn’t about Winston Blackmore or the despicable acts of pedophilia and misogyny – with girls as young as fifteen pressed into plural marriages and by extension sexual relationships with men often old enough to be their grandfathers – masquerading as religion within the confines of the Bountiful community. It is not about the fact that those outside the community who defend Blackmore under the guise of religious freedom are likely either misogynists, pedophiles, or both.

This article is about polygamy and polygyny.

Before we begin, we have to define our terms as words like polygamy, polyandry, polyamory and polygyny often get confused.

Polygamy is the practice of having more than one wife or husband at the same time.

Polyandry is the practice in which a woman has more than one husband.

Polyamory is the practice of pursuing one or more romantic relationships at the same time.

Polygyny, which is by far the most common, is the practice in which one man takes multiple wives.

Though polygamy is illegal as per the Canadian Criminal Code, the law typically only comes into play in cases of polygyny.

The provision against polygamy can be found in section 293 of the Canadian Criminal Code which says that:

(1) Every one who

(a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into

  • (i) any form of polygamy, or
  • (ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,
    whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or

(b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),

is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

In addition to making polygamy an indictable offense, the law limits what kinds of defenses can be used against such a charge. The law says that proof of consent to a polygamous marriage is inadmissible as evidence as is proof that the marriage was entered into for the purpose of having sex.

The law also provides that participating in a marriage knowing that the other party is getting married against their will is liable to the same five year penalty as for polygamy, as is participating in a marriage with a party under the age of sixteen, something that comes into play a lot in Bountiful as many of the girls pressed into marriage are as young as fifteen. People who solemnize the marriage in violation of the law could face a two year prison term.

In an attempt to save themselves from prosecution, the heads of Bountiful BC brought their demand to practice polygyny to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. They did so under the guise of religious freedom, as their sect of Mormonism – the mainstream Mormon Church has disowned them and their twin, the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints in the US – believes that in order to get into heaven, a man has to have at least three wives.

The case they brought is called a Reference case, in which you can ask the court to give their opinion on a legal issue. The federal government, for example, has used reference cases to decide issues like the terms by which Quebec can separate from Canada.

In 2011 the Supreme Court of British Columbia decided in favor of keeping Canada’s anti polygamy laws on the grounds that society was better served by keeping these laws in place despite their violation of religious freedom. In their decision, the courts looked at the documented consequences of polygyny which included:

  • Increase in crime rates, as the demand for more wives for a small handful of men would result in most women going into marriages with high status men. The result would be a large pool of low status unmated men whom studies confirm commit more crime.
  • Decreased male parental investment as men having so many wives and so many children have less time to spend with each child.
  • Exacerbated gender gap and decreased age of marriage as the demand for more wives drives the age of marriage down and the desire of polygynous husbands to ensure the paternity of their children within said unions leads to the curtailing of the freedoms of women and girls.

There is also the notion that polygyny hurts the economy as women stuck in plural marriages are often so busy having children or stuck in situations where their movements are controlled and as a result many don’t work. Without a job, there is no income and when women have no income, they cannot spend and consume, and consumption is what fuels the economy.

That said, there are factors that the court failed to consider, such as that polygyny increases the likelihood of the negative consequences of inbreeding. As communities tend to be closed, polygynous unions ultimately result in everyone being genetically related to everyone and cousins marrying one another. The result, as can be seen in the case of Short Creek on the Utah/Arizona border in the United States, is the increased likelihood of genetic defects in offspring.

Historically polygyny was used to secure power and make sure that women had someone to care for them when men were scarce. Today it’s a way for perverted old men to abuse girls and women under the guise religiously ordained rights. Canada’s polygamy laws exist to protect half the population from men like these.

Let’s keep it that way.

I am always the big spoon, it doesn’t matter if the person is bigger than me or not, I just seem to fade into that position naturally. This is where the awkward arm comes into play. Most of the time big spoon is by choice, because I am physically bigger than the person, if I was the little spoon they would be my little sweet jet pack.

You know that feeling that you just want to chop your arm off because you can’t figure out where to put it while cuddling? The dead arm struggle is real. If you put it under their head blood flow is cut off and it goes numb, not to mention how uncomfortable it feels for your partner to have this giant jutting tree trunk of an arm arm under their neck.

No matter where you stick it the arm feels weird. You just want to drift off into snuggly heaven with your love and all you can do is think about the dead cold ARM. This causes distraction and movement. Disruption in the third degree. Then wait till one of you has to pee. Finally all is right in the world, you are drifted off to sleep with your love pulled in close, both comfortable, then it comes. The sensation that Niagara Falls is about to burst from your bladder through your crotch.

No matter how hard you try they won’t wake up gently. You throw them off of you in a fit of panic. Well I would have peed on you otherwise baby. Not in a sexy golden showers way either.

I am a sweaty betty, so cuddling with me is gonna get wet. I try to not stick their head right in my gloriously stinky armpit. I love being a sweaty swamp creature from the Black Lagoon with someone, smushing our weird wet, sexed, bodies together. Getting all slip and slide in the bed.

I know a man who kept dating a woman he didn’t even like for the remainder of a hot summer just because she had air conditioning. Cuddling is a crazy thing. Sleeping next to your partner is so intimate, it separates real relationships from one night stands who dip out in the night.

Even the best technique is still flawed, it must involve a fluffy pillow in-between arm and head meat. The arm takes longer to die, but it will happen eventually. Usually it gets numb as soon as your sweetie is out like an angel.

You feel like an asshole for moving it, but you don’t want to see the alternative. Sometimes I will try to just stick my arm out the back into outer space, but that also feels weird.

Were humans actually made to cuddle like this? I mean, sure, it is incredible to have physical intimacy beyond sex. There is no greater feeling than knowing someone wants to squish their naked body up against yours and fall asleep. To feel absolutely safe in someone’s arms is priceless. But why the forever awkward appendage?

There is a special pillow called the Armadillow with very mixed reviews that has a tunnel in it for the arm, but sadly since it is still rigid and you have to keep your arm in the 45 degree tunnel it still gets ouchie. I have imagined cutting a hole in my bed and sticking it in there too. I wonder if this would do it.

There is also a Cuddle-Mattress that is made with slats in it for better cuddling. The inventor unsuccessfully attempted to crowd source it.

Do I just stick it up in the air? There is no way it can stay under her like that. The pins! The needles! The pure non-sexy agony! I just will have to cut it off.

Should I just get a crazy interchangeable prosthetic where one day I have a chainsaw arm, then its dildo, then its a cake mixer, then its a claw or an OG hook? Wouldn’t I look incredible with a fucking hook? Yes, the answer is YES!

Just suck it up and deal with the dead arm and cuddle the shit out of the one(s) you adore. At the end of the day its not the worst problem to have because that means someone wants to hold you back. Nothing is perfect and together you will figure out where the arm goes.

I am the type of person that has a lot of irrational fear. I am afraid of things going too fast, I am afraid of letting go. I don’t know if I have ever really had an orgasm or truly allowed myself to be vulnerable. I am a loner desperately trying to love life and experience everything, but rarely take the necessary chances.

Well, I did something spontaneous. I got in a car with my friend and his dog and drove across the United States in four days. I have always wanted to do the road trip to California, but I had a romantic image of doing it with a lover.

I wanted someone to want to see the world with me, I wanted someone to want to be confined in a car with me. I was sick of watching everyone else go, waiting my whole life for a moment to arrive. I came to the realization that if I waited any longer I would never do it.

Regret is not part of my vocabulary. Nothing is ever going to work out as planned because we have no idea about the minute details that can change with the flutter of a butterfly’s wings.

You can’t wait for the perfect person or the right situation to come along, you just have to work with the cards you are dealt and make your own path in life. Find happiness in your own heart and do good things for others. Get in the car, take the leap, it will always be worth it.

I only had one week. The final destination was never the main attraction. Last year I went to the West Coast for the first time to go to the Burger Boogaloo (a punk music and art fest in Oakland). This year I was offered a free ticket from a beautiful person. How could I give up the chance to see Iggy Pop for the first time in my life? Now that Bowie is passed I can’t miss Iggy. I also had the hopes of meeting John Waters.

Of course I didn’t meet John, that elusive bastard. Iggy Pop was fantastic, he has never changed, still rocking, made of leather, pickled by drugs, partied to the pit, hardened by rock and roll. John Waters proclaimed that he was a god.

It was exactly what I expected, but still left me with a strange emptiness. I remember the first time I ever heard the Stooges. Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell will always remind me of a time when I was young and beautiful, but so unsure that I missed out.

I was in a dive bar with my crush who had a punk rock soul and the most beautiful baby blues I have ever seen. I guess a part of me thought that if I saw Iggy live I would finally find something I have been looking for all of these years.

Now I watch a beautiful tattooed woman crawl on all fours to try and sneak up close, and then he ironically opens with I Want to Be Your Dog on the Butt City stage, his skinny greased shirtless body writhing between quirky inflatable characters with luscious asses. 

People pay rockstars to be confident. Society worships those who are sure of themselves and don’t give a fuck. Art has no apology, it is god.

“Nobody understands me, I’m really sensitive. Everyone thinks I should be so happy, fucking all these chicks, and all the drugs and being a star. But I hurt. And I’m lonely.” – Iggy Pop on being famous.

I think about my life as a performer, attempting shock and awe. Will I ever be as shocking as Iggy Pop with a jar of peanut butter? Will I ever be a household name? There is still heartache in the stars.

I wonder who Iggy sold his soul to for survival? My soul is not for sale. I will not become hardened leather, I will get softer with age.

I have always been living what I thought I needed to find all along. Fear and insecurity hold us all back too often. Everyone is flawed and everyone is perfect. The journey was always the important part. Proving to myself that I was strong without my “missing” soulmate. I am my own soulmate, my lover is adventure, my partner is the great unknown.

It was fun googling weed laws in each state that we drove through, just to see if we could drive recklessly with joints in our mouth. Blazing through the desert without a care in the world. I loved driving through the whole state, seeing the “Welcome to Arkansas” sign and then being welcomed to the next state.

It was addicting and inspiring. I was doing something that was just a dream before this. I don’t follow though on a lot of my dreams. I have never lived anywhere but Buffalo and I am very naive in so many ways.

I would have to say my favorite part of the trip was at a moment where I was being bitchy and tired, we were heading through Arizona, about to go into Nevada and I didn’t want to drive but continued on as my friend slept.

We had chosen Death Valley as a destination for this night. It was half way to San Francisco and had the best view of stars. Then I saw the twinkling lights of Vegas in the distance and knew I needed to shut the fuck up and keep driving.

I stopped at a truck stop and accidentally peed on my feet in a field of truckers. It was so sketchy and timeless. Kimya Dawson soothed my soul as we plotted on into the abyss. We pulled into Death Valley National Park at about 1 am. A wrong turn brought us to some tourists (country of origin unknown) who had gotten their rental car stuck in the sand (much in the same way I have been stuck in the snow). They were having a much worse day than I was.

It was 100 degrees Farainheit at night, you could die there during the day it gets so hot. (I laugh because the US is still behind the times and not using the metric system).

We just put a blanket out, set up camp, and I remember falling asleep watching the second most amount of shooting stars I had ever seen. The first was when I was laying in Lake Erie, naked, with some beautiful women during a meteor shower, that was magical. This was also magic.

I was in the hottest part of the desert on a summer night, I was far out of my comfort zone and there was no cuddling up to my cats or hugging my mom for a safety net. Watching stars dance and twinkle, looking at constellations I didn’t know the names of.

Whenever I see a shooting star I wish for love. I do not know what that love looks like, but I will know it when I feel it. Love is waking up in the morning, the mountainous glory revealed, and indulging in a nude photo shoot in the desert.

Love is finding the perfect gross punk bar, love is kissing vegan girls, love is musicians who look you in the eyes and undress you with their sweet serenade, love is ending up naked on a basement floor in a warehouse in the Mission in the shadow of a Ghost Ship. A gypsy from Poughkeepsie. Love is smoking a medicinal joint in a park while a banjo plays behind you and two girls casually smoke a bong on a decorative blanket. I search the world for a feeling. Maybe I have met her 20 times before.

She kissed me and I wanted to hold her, she bit my lip and I bit her inner thigh. She held me under the same stars just in a different place. On a roof in my hometown, the stars were clouded by light pollution, I have been clouded. I have been so lost that the only way to find myself is to go. Go anywhere, just get in the car and run from all the abstract illness that has been constraining me.

The breeze was refreshing and my toes stuck out the bottom. She held me tenderly under the thin hole punched blanket, and I felt so safe. It was easy and I didn’t need to guess how she felt. The familiar scent of bonfire burning made me happy to be home. Open to whatever possibility that may bloom in the warm sun. Water and cultivate to exist in happiness.

Let yourself try things and you will end up in the right nooks, on the right roofs, and always under the same stars.

The liberal democratic criminal justice system is founded on the notion that people are innocent until proven guilty, no one gets imprisoned without just cause, and that everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a fair and speedy trial. That said, sometimes the justice system is not so just. Sometimes you get a racist or misogynist judge, and sometimes it takes so long for your case to actually go to trial that you are stuck in pre-trial detention.

We are going to discuss the latter problem.

The Quebec Justice System is suffering from a backlog, and it has been suffering from this backlog for over a year now. It is so problematic that some suspected criminals are walking free, while innocents rot in jail awaiting their trials.

In November 2016 four accused drug traffickers, one of which was Richard Hudon, a founding member of the Quebec Hells Angels, got a stay of proceedings because they had to wait over sixty months for their case to go to trial.

A stay of proceedings can be granted if an accused convinces the court that putting them on trial would be an “abuse of process” that would violate principles of fundamental justice guaranteed by our constitution. The effect of such stays is that the case may never be prosecuted, will never go to trial. This allowing the accused to walk free.

It is therefore only granted in cases of severe abuse. An excessive wait time for your trial can be a violation of your constitutional rights but fortunately, once a problem is recognized, the judicial system which is ever evolving gets to work trying to fix it.

The system got started in the summer of 2016 with the Supreme Court ruling in R v. Jordan.

Jordan was arrested in 2008 for his participation in a dial-a-dope operation in BC in which customers could call and order drugs delivered. Jordan spent two months in jail awaiting his trial, and another four years under restrictive bail conditions while awaiting trial.

In the Jordan case, the Supreme Court was asked to properly define section 11 (b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which says that “Any person charged with an offence has the right…(b) to be tried within a reasonable time”. The Supreme Court came up with the following rules:

  • Criminal trials in Provincial Court must be completed in eighteen months but that increases to thirty months if said trial was preceded by a preliminary inquiry
  • For cases to be heard in Superior Court, trials must be completed in thirty months
  • In cases where there is a claim that a trial occurring within this limit is deemed unreasonable, it’s up to the defense to prove it
  • If the trial takes longer to conclude than the eighteen or thirty month limit it presumed to be an unreasonable delay it’s up to the Crown (the prosecution) to prove otherwise

That said, Quebec and other provincial governments are under a lot of pressure to meet the Supreme Court’s criteria and make sure criminal trials are concluded more quickly.

The Quebec government and Provincial Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée have been working to curb the delays.

In December 2016, the government announced that they were going to inject a hundred and seventy-five million dollars into the justice system over a period of four years in order to hire more judges, prosecutors, and support staff. They’re also launching an eighteen month pilot project to make lesser offenses non judicial with the plan of using community service instead of incarceration for offenders. In addition, on June 21, 2017, Justice Minister Vallée announced the hiring of twenty legal aid lawyers and support staff to deal with the backlog.

But Quebec cannot deal with the backlog alone.

Superior Court judges are needed to facilitate more trials, and Quebec is calling on the federal government to help. Unlike Provincial Court judges which are appointed by the provincial government, only the federal government can appoint them judges to the Superior Court. Quebec is asking for the appointment of ten new judges and the sooner they are hired, the easier it will be to address the backlog.

In the Jordan case the Supreme Court said that “The ability to provide fair trials within a reasonable time is an indicator of the health and proper functioning of the system itself.” Until the backlog is fully dealt with, we can safely say that our justice system is suffering from poor health. Fortunately, it’s a problem our governments are ready and willing to fix.

Let the healing begin.

* Featured image: the Quebec Court of Appeals in Montreal, via WikiMedia Commons

 

I took a walk in the park today, there are sprawling mounds that used to be a landfill right by the lake. Today is so sunny, beautiful breeze, blissful.

I was alone, my floral maxi dress blowing around (and I wasn’t wearing underwear). There was an older man walking behind me and another man walking in front. Three politely spaced humans strolling on the same path. Respect during a time where rape culture reigns supreme. A girl alone should be afraid of meeting a man on a path. Right?

We all kept the same pace. When we are farther away from another person (especially a stranger), we feel a degree of safety from them. There are social rules about personal space and proximity to others. A distant person cannot just attack us out of the blue. If we feel threatened there is time to run or fight. We contemplate ways to escape or think about how loud we can yell, will anyone hear? Will they care? Would FIRE work better than RAPE?!

As a woman I know I am slightly less intimidating to someone. A large man walking behind you will raise a larger red flag. You assume his intentions are to rob and rape you, leaving you fighting for life in an ally. It’s just stereotypes, but we are programmed to be afraid.

It does happen. People get robbed and raped every 10 minutes. Thinking about this makes people get irrational, this is when their racist and sexist nature comes to a head. I picture women clutching their purses in fear. My mom was mugged several times.

That’s why I wear a fanny pack, so I can be slightly more fearless. I don’t judge people by their looks either. The most unassuming person can be a huge scumbag with a gun. I know plenty of giant men who are sweethearts that wouldn’t hurt a fly too.

Instinct tells me to be on guard, the unknown is scary, but I don’t have to run for the hills either. I need to climb them and rise above. I always say hello to everyone I encounter and make eye contact. Ensuring them that “I see you” and I will remember you in a lineup. I remember everything, small minute details forgotten by time’s mistress.

The man in front had a stride that I recall, his hair flowing in the breeze like a god. I am glad I saw his face because he looked just like someone I used to love. Symbolic of all that I am trying to move past, he was a hill ahead of me. “You” were in my thoughts again, as usual. This time I didn’t start it.

I waited on my hill so he could have his time as the king of the mountain (I mean, that’s why I was there).

I couldn’t face him-the man that looked a lot like you from behind. I wish it was you and that we were on the same hill. I stand here on my own hill with my hands in the air, standing on the rocks, alone.

My heart is like my whiskey, strong, and also on the rocks. You are a siren, coaxing me to my demise. I came here to be free of all worry and am faced with an uncanny doppelgänger. I wonder why fate plays such tricks on us?

The other man wearing a fedora took a different path, into the dark serenity of the woods and away from the gleaming hills. Down that way is some graffiti I did the day Prince died. Now I stand here, watching the symphony of grass blades, deer paths and discarded Natty Ice cans. A moving painting.

Am I the only one who writes poetry in my head while I meander through luxurious fields? It looks like an acid flashback, but more subtle. I like to be high in high places, looking down at the world below. I am not afraid of heights as long as I am on something solid. I am more afraid of falling in love than a perilous drop into the unknown. If you survive, bones heal, but the heart never truly recovers from a break.

Symbolic-You abandoned the mound, finally, it was time for me to mosey away. Sunset was nearing, it is the summer solstice, longest day of the year. More time in the stunning brightness to contemplate all the things.

I made the climb to the top and it was glorious. I was finally king of the mountain. On top of the world, standing on the rocks with arms stretched to the sky, wind blowing my hair and dress, I felt in that moment I could live forever. Then I noticed someone standing on the other hill, waiting for me to be done too, so I moved on like all the others before me.

I wonder if I looked like someone he once loved?

Land lines are a dead technology.

People are increasingly realizing that it’s more practical to carry a phone with you all the time than to rush home agonizing over whether or not you missed an important call. With the proliferation of the mobile phone came the spread of providers competing for your business and until recently, companies have been taking advantage.

In 2013, that all changed when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), a federal administrative tribunal responsible for regulating and supervising broadcasting and telecommunications, created the Wireless Code of Conduct which explains your rights as a mobile consumer and the rules your wireless company must obey.

On June 15, 2017, the CRTC came out with new rules specifying the obligations set out in the Wireless Code of Conduct.

Here’s a crash course on the Wireless Code and what those rules are.

Your wireless service provider must communicate with you in plain language. Written contracts and any related documents such as privacy and fair use policies must be written in a way that is clear and easy to read and understand. That means that they cannot draft contracts and related documents in a way that would dupe you into agreeing to something most wouldn’t have had they fully understood it.

The terms of your contract regarding voice, text, and data services cannot be unilaterally changed without the account holder’s consent. You are allowed to cancel your wireless contract within fifteen days and return your device to the provider in near-new condition at no cost, provided that at the time of the cancellation you used less than half of your monthly usage limits.

Wireless providers have to set out the prices in the contract and specify if they include taxes. They cannot charge you extra if you purchased a plan with unlimited services and they cannot limit an unlimited plan unless the fair use policy clearly specifies when they can and those conditions are met.

Your wireless provider must notify you at no charge when your device is in another country and clearly explain the ensuing rates for talk, text, and data. You can opt out of these notifications at any time. They cannot charge you more than a hundred dollars per monthly billing cycle for data roaming unless you have clearly given prior consent, and this billing cap must come at no charge to you, the consumer.

For data overage charges – data used over your data plan’s limit – the rules set the cap at fifty dollars unless you expressly consented to paying more. This cap cannot come at any charge to you.

Where family or group plans are concerned, these caps apply on a per-account basis regardless of how many devices are attached to the plan.

No More Locked Devices

Your wireless company cannot charge you for any device or service you did not expressly purchase, and as of June 15, 2017, unlocking fees are now illegal.

The aforementioned fees are what cell phone companies would charge to unlock your phone should you try decide to switch wireless providers. That means that before the CRTC’s decision, if you chose to switch wireless providers, you couldn’t just swap out the sim cards and keep using your current device. You would have to pay your old company a fee to unlock your phone.

Wireless providers justified the charges as a way of ensuring the device was paid for should the consumer decide to switch providers before the end of their contract. The CRTC has decided that this is illegal as it puts an unfair limit on competition between wireless providers.

As per the CRTC’s ruling as of December 1, 2017 you have the right to go to your wireless provider and have your devices unlocked free of charge. Any new devices you get must be provided to you unlocked from now on.

If your device is lost or stolen and you notify your wireless company immediately, your wireless provider must suspend your service at no charge. You’re still obligated to pay any charges incurred before the company got notice that the device was lost or stolen, the monthly fee, and if you choose the cancel the contract, any cancellation fee. If you find your device or replace it, you can notify your service provider who has to restore your service free of charge.

If you decide to cancel your contract early, the company can only charge you a cancellation fee. No other penalties apply and wireless companies have to calculate the cancellation fee based on criteria set out in the Wireless Code of Conduct. You can cancel your contract at any time by notifying your service provider.

Penalties for the Providers

Now let’s say your wireless provider does not obey the Wireless Code; what do you do? What kinds of penalties will the company face?

If your Wireless Service Provider does not respect the Wireless Code, you can file a complaint with the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services, which is charged with administering it. If the complaint falls within their mandate, they’ll get in touch with your provider and ask them to try and resolve the matter with you and get back to them in thirty days.

Once the provider gets back to them, they’ll try and assess if the issue has been resolved to your satisfaction. If it hasn’t, the Commissioner will assess if the issue can be resolved informally. Your complaint can be rejected or dismissed at any stage of the proceedings.

If the Commissioner decides your complaint has merits, they can recommend that your provider take action or refrain from doing so. This can include anything from an apology to stopping collections activity, to compensating you up to five thousand dollars for any losses or inconvenience suffered.

Both you and your wireless provider can decide whether to accept or reject the recommendation. If your provider rejects it, the Commissioner will assess the reasons and make a decision as to whether to maintain or modify their recommendation. If the decision is accepted by you, it becomes binding on your service provider. If you reject the Commissioner’s decision, your service provider does not have to obey it.

It’s not an ideal solution, as it’s a long process to try and get fairness from wireless providers all too ready and willing to take advantage of consumer naivete, but at least there are checks in place.

A cell phone is a modern necessity. Don’t get screwed by the providers.

* Featured image by John Fingas via Flickr Creative Commons